The Panthers have grinded their way to a 16-8 victory over Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium.
A strong backline performance for the home side carried them to victory with tries to Tyrone Peachey and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak capping off a win that keeps the Panthers right in the hunt for a Finals place.
Complacency from the Canterbury side gifted the Panthers the lead inside the opening seven minutes when Nathan Cleary converted a simple penalty goal to give his side a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers lead was extended midway through the half when stand-in skipper Peter Wallace was first to a deflected kick from Dylan Edwards, before Cleary added his second goal for an 8-0 lead.
The Bulldogs struck back through Josh Reynolds just shy of the half-hour mark when the fleet-footed five-eighth stepped through a flat-footed defence close to the line. Kerrod Holland knocked over the simple conversion to bring the score back to 8-6.
The Panthers nearly responded after an error from the kick off when Corey Harawira-Naera wrestled his way over the line but for a desperate tackle by William Hopoate holding him up.
A penalty to the Bulldogs compounded a missed knock-on in a scrum by the referees to allow the visitors to draw level as the sides went in to the break locked up at 8-all.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 8 – 8 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
A tightly-contested battle resumed after the break with both sides putting sustained pressure on the opposition line before Waqa Blake inspired the breakthrough.
After failing to find his winger on a previous opportunity, he made no mistake on his second attempt with a flamboyant offload finding Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the corner to edge their side in front 12-8 with twenty minutes remaining.
The opposite centre-wing combination would extend the home side’s lead entering the final ten minutes. Josh Mansour’s chase on a Tyrone Peachey kick behind the defence forced an error from Hopoate, allowing Peachey to swoop on the ball making it 16-8.
Late opportunities to add to their lead were squandered but the Panthers would hold on to the priceless victory and spell the end of the road in 2017 for Canterbury.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 16 – 8 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs